Friday, 17 March 2017

Event Review : Liphook sportive

Last year, inspired, coerced and influenced by Dean, I took part in my first sportive event. For the uninitiated a sportive is a cycling event, non-competitive, but with full organisation. I am not, and probably never will be a "cyclist", although I wish I were. As such I am not used to cycling any sort of distance and the thought of having some company, a planned route and a reward at the end seemed like a good idea, an achievable, not-too-scary sort of challenge.

There are a whole host of sportives to choose from, various terrain, distances, with or without medals and so on. I chose the Evans Cycles Road Sportive in Liphook. This took place in August around a very beautiful area in Hampshire. There were four distances to choose from, Fun (15mi), Short (30mi), Medium (60mi) and Long (90mi). Prices ranged from £7.50 up to £25 for fully marked routes and well stocked High5 feed stations along the way. No medal or goody bag at the end but refreshments were available.

I decided that 30mi was enough for me, paid my £20 and shoehorned my bike into the car on the day in question. It was easy enough to find the place and get registered. I was given a map of the routes and directed to the start line. This sportive had a very laid back feel and riders were being set off in waves all morning. I was fairly late to arrive and my start group was small with a mix of serious looking riders, leisure riders like myself and a few kiddies. I wobbled away from the start apprehensively but reassured that I had others to ride with who seemed to be of a similar speed. The first few miles were lovely, signs were evident and I was feeling safe on the quiet country roads. 

The short and fun route followed the same path for a while but there was a point at which they diverged, marked, I was assured, by clear signs. Alas they weren't as obvious as claimed and a small group of us were left consulting maps and scratching heads as it seemed we may have missed the turn. I wasn't sure I'd missed it and ploughed on, only to find myself back on familiar roads and back at the start all too soon. I'd completed the fun route and was't allowed back out to try my luck again, as I was told that the signage was being taken down and they couldn't be held responsible for my safety. I was gutted., but it wasn't really anyone's fault.

Deflated, I stuffed the bike back in the car, unwilling to try riding on unfamiliar roads to make up distance, and drove home where I stubbornly rode around the roads of Crowthorne until I'd made up the 30 miles. There was some small sense of satisfaction to be gained from that.

This year I've once again been persuaded to enter another sportive, as part of my triathlon training. This time I'm taking part in the New Forest Spring sportive organised by Wiggle. A 50 mile ride on a Sunday with a medal at the end sounds lovely and this time I'll be doing it with Dean and other friends. I'm anticipating a more positive experience although it will still be a heck of a challenge.

Although my experience of the Evans Cycles sportive wasn't the best I do still believe these to be excellent events for cyclists at any level. Just make sure you have and can read a back up map, just in case!

Have you ever taken part in a sportive? Ever had a mapping mishap?

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